NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN Comparison & Review (2020)
NordVPN and ExpressVPN are the leading VPN providers today.
They are the head honchos in the world of VPN apps, and more broadly, personal data privacy… A battle of two security Goliaths where only one will rein supreme.
Good people like yourselves want to know who wins head-to-head. When you read reviews, it might be difficult to identify which of these two products is better than the other.
In this review, we will look at the attributes that each of these products bring to the table and then in an unbiased way see which of these two products really stands out as being the best.
Who do you think will win!? The anticipation is killing me! We bet you’re itching for some answers too! Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of things however, let’s take a step back and go over what to keep an eye out for.
What Should You Look For When Comparing VPN Services?
It’s quite hard to know what to look for when shopping for a VPN, especially when you have no prior experience having one. There are many factors to look for that will help you make your decision. To learn more about this, take a look at our Nord vs PIA guide where we discuss these considerations in more details.
The first factor everyone looks at is price. How much is too much and how much is too little? In the VPN industry, as a general rule, long-term contracts offer huge savings. Look no further than NordVPN to see how much a three-year contract can impact your cost. Reputable VPNs can range anywhere from $3 to $15.
When using the internet and going the extra mile to protect yourself, the last thing you want is to completely throttle your speeds. Using a VPN that has horrible speeds kind of defeats the purpose of using the internet.
There are services that check all the boxes in every category except speed and there are services that only provide fast speed and meager protection. It’s best to weigh what is most important to you when looking.
Privacy and Security
The main reason you’re looking for a VPN is privacy and security. Whether you’re accessing restricted content or want to protect your bank account, there is always the concern of accomplishing this securely. Making sure your VPN doesn’t log activity and resides in proper jurisdiction can go a long way.
Access to Geo-Restricted Content
One of the biggest draws for VPNs is the ability to access Netflix and other streaming services in other countries. Not all VPNs are created equal in this regard. Make sure to see if the service you use can access the proper streaming services.
Server Count and Location
Figuring out where servers are located and how many servers are available is an important aspect of VPN shopping. It goes a long way for accessing content as well as impacts speed. As a general rule, the closer you are to a server, the faster your speeds will be. The more servers and locations, the better.
Number of Connections
One often overlooked access is how many simultaneous connections you can have on the VPN. If you can only have one connection at the time, you won’t be fully protected. An important aspect of this is being able to connect to a router. If you can connect to a router, you can cover all of your devices.
Customer Support and Knowledge Base
Even more important than a reliable customer support team is a full knowledge base. Using a knowledgebase can save time and energy. If you have questions, the answer should just be a few clicks away. Having competent and reliable customer support is also important and should be a high priority.
Trials and Money Back Guarantees
The industry standard is a 30-day money back guarantee. There are a few VPN services that only offer a 7-day money-back guarantee. A few VPNs actually offer a free version of the software that has limited data usage and feature use. Having at least a month to try something out is an added bonus.
That about sums it up. Now that we’ve reviewed the important factors to watch out for, let’s begin!
Price Comparison – Winner: NordVPN
When you do a side-by-side comparison, you will see that each product brings something unique to the table. For example, when it comes to options for subscription periods:
NordVPN offers subscriptions for one month, one year, and three years. You get a 66 percent discount with the two-year plan. NordVPN is worth it at any price but where they really make a name for themselves is in the long-term when it comes to cost.
$2.99 per month for one of the market leaders is absurd value. All you have to do is pay 100 bucks and forget you even had to pay for your VPN for three years. What a steal!
ExpressVPN offers subscriptions for one month, six months, or one year. With the one year subscription, you get three months free.
Obviously, ExpressVPN doesn’t hold a candle to NordVPN when it comes to long term pricing. Short-term pricing is extremely comparable.
There has to be a reason why ExpressVPN charges a premium for their service. Let’s find out further along!
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer a 30-day money back guarantee. We have investigated these policies and can verify that each company lives up to their promise. Neither requires you to give a reason as to why you want to cancel the service. If it doesn’t work for you, they will refund you the money.
Basically, they’re offering a free trial. They just want to hold on to your money for a bit if you decide you don’t like the service. We can’t fault them for that. Most people will forget or be too lazy to get their money back.
Our Verdict for Pricing Comparison: Slight edge to NordVPN. Both VPNs offer a comparable service in the short term. However, NordVPN offers a much better deal in the long term.
Speed Comparison – Winner: ExpressVPN
We did a side-by-side speed test comparison with the NordVPN and ExpressVPN. The tests that were performed used OpenVPN protocol along with a 256-bit AES encryption.
This is one of the money makers for VPNs. Speed is so important for aspects of internet use like gaming and high definition streaming. If you don’t have quality internet speeds in the first place, you need to be careful about how much speed drops when using a VPN. People also expect their browsers to load pages in a blink of an eye.
We tested nearby servers in Europe with our baseline connection being 94 MB per second. A test that was done in Italy virtually maxed out our baseline connection speed. When we performed the same speed test with other countries, the results were virtually the same. We got a download speed of 92.45 MB per second.
When similar tests were performed with servers in North America, the results were excellent. We were able to maintain 78 MB per second as an average. This was true whether we were testing in the United States or Canada.
As you can see when using a specific server with ExpressVPN there was barely any drop off in speed. This is an amazing result. When using the slower servers the speed decreased by 17%. This isn’t the best result but it’s better than a lot of alternatives and there are always other faster servers to use.
We performed a similar test with NordVPN. We used OpenVPN protocol with the same 256 bit AES encryption. Because of past performance issues with NordVPN, we expected a significant drop in our download speed when using the service.
We are pleased to say that NordVPN has made a number of improvements over the years, including adding servers in diverse locations.
When we tested NordVPN with a server in Denmark, we got 94 MB per second, so we were happy with that. Unfortunately, the results were not as even when testing servers in the United States or Canada. In some of our tests, we could get upwards of 60 MB per second. In others, we would have a drop down to as little as 5 MB per second.
Obviously, server location makes a huge impact. The awesome thing about NordVPN are the thousands of servers available in hundreds of locations.
You should keep in mind that there are a number of factors that can affect speed in general. However, our verdict, based on a speed test, is that ExpressVPN is the clear winner when it comes to speed consistency.
Bypassing Geo Restrictions – Winner: NordVPN
One of the primary reasons why you may be looking for a VPN is to get around geo restrictions and view streaming material. Some of the more popular streaming services that geo restrict their content include:
- Amazon Prime
- BBC iPlayer
- And network broadcasts in the United States, including NBC, CBS, and ABC
In our testing, NordVPN was able to get around geo restrictions on most of the streaming services. We had small issues when trying to connect to the broadcast stations from the United States, specifically with ABC and CBS, but did get around this problem after switching servers a few times.
Conversely, ExpressVPN had no problem getting around the geo restrictions on all of the services that we tested. If you have Kodi, you can use ExpressVPN to get around regional restrictions on TV services. With ExpressVPN, there was no noticeable lag in the streaming service using their special servers. ExpressVPN may very well be one of the best VPNs for Netflix.
There was one area where NordVPN clearly defeated ExpressVPN, and it could be a major issue for a few folks—NordVPN was able to access US to Australia Netflix whereas ExpressVPN was not.
|US to Canada Netflix||US to UK Netflix||US to Japan Netflix||US to Australia Netflix|
While both services performed admirably, our verdict is that the winner in this category is NordVPN due to more servers being able to access more content across the globe. This comes as no surprise however, because they have a proprietary technology that allows most of their 5,000+ servers a viable access point for streaming services.
Features Overview – Winner: NordVPN
As most people would know, both VPN services have a long list of features. Depending on your priorities, both could work. Although seemingly identical, there are subtle differences that might swing the balance to NordVPN’s side.
ExpressVPN feature list
Unblocks content from around the globe
- 2,000 servers across 94 countries
- Built-in speed test feature
- Applications for every device
- 256-bit AES encryption
- No activity logs or connection logs
- OpenVPN and other protocols
- Zero knowledge DNS
- VPN Router Support
NordVPN feature list
- Unblocks content from around the globe
- 5,000 servers across 62 countries
- Double VPN servers.
- 256-bit AES encryption
- Zero logging policy
- OpenVPN tunneling protocol and others
- Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac support
- Onion Over VPN
- Smart Play – unlocking geo-restricted content
- VPN Router Support
The one big differentiator in terms of features is NordVPN’s double encryption protocol.
The Double Data protection option offered by NordVPN will encrypt your data twice by relaying the information through two subsequent VPN servers before it gets to the webpage of the application you’re trying to get access to.
And if that’s not enough, the second VPN service will not have your original IP address. UDP and TCP protocols are used to make connections. This is an extra layer of encryption that most people won’t need, but if you do need it, it’s good to know that it is available.
The problem is that this does hinder speeds sometimes – which can be seen in the speed test.
ExpressVPN goes about encrypting your data a little differently. In order to keep your online traffic safe, ExpressVPN hides your IP address and then mixes your traffic with the traffic of others. This makes it all but impossible for third parties to read your information. This includes your Internet service provider and your local Wi-Fi operator.
ExpressVPN gives you the option of selecting from a variety of VPN protocols. This adds another layer of security between your computer and the VPN server you are using. Most people using a VPN do not know the difference between the VPN protocols provided. For this reason, ExpressVPN has the option of automatically choosing the protocol that is going to be best for the network you are using.
Our verdict: Slight edge to NordVPN’s double encryption.
VPN in China
ExpressVPN and NordVPN have developed a reputation for being able to perform well in China. ExpressVPN has done so well, in fact, that the main website for the service is blocked in China. ExpressVPN has been able to get around that by offering alternative addresses for its Chinese users.
ExpressVPN is keenly aware of the challenges it faces in China. Because of how well it works, there are the occasional service outages in the country. That being said, even with the service outages, ExpressVPN is respected throughout the country as performing well. NordVPN has a respectable track record in the market as well.
ExpressVPN has a longer reputation of accomplishing everything needed to be done to get through China’s firewalls.
In this sub-category, our verdict is that ExpressVPN is the winner. A longer reputation means that their encryption technology has stood the test of time, despite the Chinese government constantly upgrading the “Great Firewall”. It’s subtle, yet important difference.
Torrenting with VPN: It’s a Tie
While torrenting has a bad reputation, torrenting itself isn’t illegal. The illegality of torrenting comes from downloading copyrighted material that you have no claim on. It is hard to tell what is legal and illegal and while you might have the purest intentions at heart, you might accidentally download something illegally. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Some VPNs are better for torrenting than others. Speed does play a role in torrenting from any website as lower speeds can hurt the download speed of the torrented file.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN both have amazing reputations for being torrent friendly. Both companies restrict users as far as which servers may be used for P2P file sharing.
You can’t go wrong with either service here which means we can call it a wash. It’s a tie, both are great with torrenting.
Simultaneous Connections – Winner: NordVPN
NordVPN has a reputation for being among the best services for offering multiple device connections. In fact, when you look at their website, they say that with just one account you are able to connect six devices simultaneously. This is an amazing number but definitely not the best in the market.
ExpressVPN allows you to connect three devices simultaneously. You can install the service on as many devices as you want. However, you can only have three connected at the same time. Some debate the value of having a number of simultaneous connections. If you are just one person, how many devices do you need connected at the same time? If you want to connect your entire house, you can simply use a VPN router.
Once you connect to your router, the number of connections doesn’t matter because all of your devices will be connected at once.
That being said, our verdict when it comes to simultaneous device connections is that NordVPN is the clear winner.
Customer Support – It’s a Tie, again
Customer support is extremely important when it comes to using any service. When it comes to a VPN service you could have a variety of questions and need some help in different areas.
Let’s talk about ExpressVPN first. ExpressVPN does not have phone support. Live chat is the best way to talk to someone but you do have the option to send an email. ExpressVPN also has a good knowledge center where you can troubleshoot issues and get help setting your service up.
We took the time to try out the chat and found that the team is responsive and quick.
NordVPN provides customer support just as well as ExpressVPN in our test. They handle customer support the same way ExpressVPN does by offering live chat, email, and a help center 24/7.
Once again, NordVPN and ExpressVPN are on equal grounds.
Is ExpressVPN better than NordVPN?
While ExpressVPN is faster than NordVPN, NordVPN offers stronger security than ExpressVPN. Besides that, they are pretty evenly matched. Only the subtle differences in features make NordVPN standout.
Is NordVPN the best VPN service today?
NordVPN is considered one of the best choices as well. Considering NordVPN’s cost, which is about a third or 35% of ExpressVPN’s cost, you get amazing value for your money.
Although speed is inconsistently great, you are getting amazing security features and streaming technology that ExpressVPN does not have. All in all, we recommend NordVPN as the best option.
Is NordVPN good for torrenting?
Yes, and for the most part, most VPNs are good for torrenting. NordVPN is one of the many.
How Can I use a VPN for free?
We don’t recommend using a free VPN. If you use a free VPN, the service will probably log your activity and sell it. There are a few other malicious ways a company can make money off of you. The gist of this warning is don’t use a free VPN service.
Can I use a VPN to watch American Netflix?
Yes, services such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN will allow you to watch American Netflix. It is important to use a reputable VPN because Netflix is constantly trying to stop people from using VPNs.
What are the 14 eyes countries?
There are groups and coalitions that share data with each other and can access businesses records that reside in those countries. As a general rule, you want to avoid using a VPN in any of the 14 eyes countries, 9 eyes countries, and 5 eyes countries. Generally, the 5 eyes countries are the worst as they are also in the 9 eyes alliance and 14 eyes alliance.
- 14 eyes countries: Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States
- 9 eyes countries: Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States
- 5 eyes countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States
Conclusion – Overall Winner: NordVPN
After looking at a number of factors, we believe that NordVPN is by far the best VPN service on the market. It offers a level of speed, security, and stability that only ExpressVPN can somewhat match, but not completely surpass.
Their commitment to privacy and their ability to bypass geo restrictions puts them head and shoulders above the rest. Check out our list of the best VPNs to find out more VPN services that you should consider. (For our French readers: Meilleur VPN)
ExpressVPN is almost as good as NordVPN. The differences in everything besides price and speed is almost negligible. Basically, if you prioritize speed for a better price, then go with with ExpressVPN and receive similar service.
With NordVPN, you’re sacrificing a little bid of speed for maximum security. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision for each person, but we prefer being more cost-effective, getting more geo-restricted shows, all while getting superior encryption.
What has been your experience? We would love to hear from you. Tell us what you think about the VPN services available in the comment section below.